Mentors and Angels Archives - StoryCorps

Pulled Into A Historic Flash Flood, One Man Saves A Stranger’s Life

In September 2009, after several days of heavy rain, the Atlanta metropolitan area suffered intense flash flooding. The catastrophic event killed 10 people and caused millions of dollars in damage. Sweetwater Creek, in Douglasville, was the site of some of the most devastating damage. 

Zack Stephney was 37 years old at the time, and working as a shop foreman at a large trucking company near Douglasville, which was located next to the floodplain. That morning, he rushed to work to help his fellow mechanics move the company’s semi trucks away from the rising waters and out of harm’s way.

A couple of months after the flash flood, he came to StoryCorps with his friend Melissa Brooks to remember the unique circumstances of how they met that day.

Zack Stephney’s coworkers assisting him as he swam out to rescue Melissa Brooks. Photo courtesy of Zack Stephney.


Top Photo: Melissa Brooks and Zack Stephney at the site of her rescue in December of 2009. Photo courtesy of Zack Stephney.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired April 7, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“I Want to be Remembered as a Person Who Cared”: A 93-Year-Old Retired Nurse Looks Back on Her Service

Ruth Owens has lived her whole life in the mountains of rural Tennessee. She worked as a nurse in the area for over four decades, eventually retiring when she was 85 years old.

Now 93, she sat down at StoryCorps with her grandson, James Taylor, who, along with several of her kids and grandkids, followed in Ruth’s footsteps to become a nurse. 

They begin by talking about Ruth’s childhood in the late 1930s and how she eventually found her calling. 

Photo: Ruth Owens with her grandson, James Taylor, in April of 2019 at their StoryCorps recording in Cookeville, TN. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps.

Originally aired March 20, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

This interview was recorded in partnership with Independent Lens and WCTE as part of a project to record stories about health and access to care in rural communities.